The Black Tides of Heaven

Tensorate #1

Paperback, 236 pages

English language

Published Sept. 26, 2017 by Tor.com.

ISBN:
9780765395412

View on OpenLibrary

4 stars (31 reviews)

The Black Tides of Heaven is one of a pair of standalone introductions to JY Yang's Tensorate Series. For more of the story you can read its twin novella The Red Threads of Fortune

Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What's more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother's Protectorate.

A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother's twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in …

2 editions

Well, yeah, but, no?

3 stars

I really wanted to like this: I am a big fan of what Aliette de Bodard does with traditional Vietnamese influences both in her Xuya Universe and her Dominion of the Fallen series, so this one, with its Wǔxíng based magic system (Chinese, not Vietnamese version) looked great, and challenging Western binary gender representation is a bonus. One of my students recently did her graduation film on queer identity in a German-Vietnamese context, queer reclaimed Guanyin and all, so you could say this ticked boxes.

Unluckily, the novel is hamstrung by a meandering plot, shallow characterisation and haphazard world-building, with a magic-reinforced version of Imperial Chinese authority sitting smack in the middle of an otherwise unexplained technological revolution. As a piece of fantastic literature, this is simply not that interesting, I’m sorry to say (how good a novel of queer identity it is, I can’t tell, being as a heterosexual …

Review of 'The Black Tides of Heaven' on 'Goodreads'

No rating

3.5 stars. I can't decide whether to round up or down. Probably down? I'll come back.

Fill in my usual novella complaints about how I like the plot and worldbuilding but it's not long enough to do the premise justice. I know I'm a broken record. I know it's my own fault and I should just stop reading novellas.

(Maybe someday I will be able to endure insta!love as just one of those things that allo people have to write that I will never understand. But for now: EVERYONE FALLS IN LOVE TOO FAST.)

Review of 'The Black Tides of Heaven' on 'GoodReads'

2 stars

I always appreciate when authors take a "show, don't tell" approach, but the result in this case is a scattershot of characters and groups of people without any clear sense of motivation. This is a story where, as the saying goes, stuff just happens. In fiction with particularly beautiful use of the language that can be fine, but that isn't found here. The characters too often speak in cliches. Many of those characters are somewhat stock in nature - the evil empress, the kindly old monk, the handsome young doctor, etc.

There is some compelling stuff here about gender and a mildly interesting system of magic called "slack," but I don't think I'll check out the remaining three books in the series.

Review of 'The Black Tides of Heaven' on 'GoodReads'

5 stars

Second read through: quite excellent. Better the second time around!

Something I hadn't remembered from the first read is the cool background on the title of the book, specifically this quote about free-will roughly 2/3 through the book:



"No matter what we did, her visions happened anyway. Future events can be set in stone. Where is your free will in that?"



Yongcheow folded careful hands over his belly. "But in those cases, you did do something, didn't you? You went to find the new Head Abbot. Your mother's purging Machinists. Some things might be fixed, but everything around then can be changed. That's the part that counts."



"A test. That's the Obedient belief, isn't it? Everything is a test from the heavens."



A considered silence shimmered. Then Yongcheow spoke. "The saying goes, 'The black tides of heaven direct the courses of human lives.' To which a wise teacher said, 'But …

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Subjects

  • Twins--Fiction.
  • Prophecy--Fiction.
  • Imaginary wars and battles--Fiction.

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